It’s Our Time: Black women running for Senate are poised to make their mark on history
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Throughout the 234-year history of the U.S. Senate, only 10 of those years have included Black women serving in the chamber. In all that time, only two have ever been U.S. senators — Carol Moseley Braun and current Vice President Kamala Harris. And right now, there are no Black women senators currently serving.
Thankfully, the 2024 elections will offer the nation multiple opportunities to address this embarrassing reality, that is, if candidates Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., can traverse the treacherous, systemic barriers stemming from misogyny and racism.
Just imagine going from zero Black women in the Senate to the possibility of three. It’s such a fragile idea. But the benefits of this reality are so clear to me and clear to the state-level leaders and national progressive organizations that have jumped in to endorse these candidates early.
Black-led and women-led groups like Collective PAC and Higher Heights for America PAC are 100% committed to electing Black women to the Senate, and they’ve backed that up by endorsing Lee, Alsobrooks and Blunt Rochester almost as soon as their campaigns launched.
“To have them fighting alongside me in this election is going to be key … and they came in early,” County Executive Alsobrooks told me in a recent interview. This quick support is something of a “bat signal” to voters. Amplifying the candidates and making it clear that this is who we need. And these endorsements will be critical in the Senate races with crowded primaries in California and Maryland, where fundraising has been uneven, to say the least.
Rep. Lee quickly reminded me that money isn’t everything as she recounted Mayor Karen Bass’ journey to leading Los Angeles. “[Bass] went and raised $9 million, and [Rick] Caruso [her mayoral opponent] spent $100 million. And look who our mayor is,” she said during our interview. This is clearly a testament to the importance of leveraging endorsements, especially from state and local officials whom these candidates have worked beside for years, decades in some cases. That, paired with grassroots support, is going to be the differentiating factor here as campaigns develop multigenerational and multiracial coalitions.
Lee’s campaign is supported by a wide swath of groups, including the Working Families Party, Our Revolution and local chapters of the Young Democrats of America. The impact has been visible in California as Lee has been continuously and steadily rising in the polls gaining seven points in recent months, and now she is within 3 points of being in a position to advance out of the nonpartisan primary. In Maryland, Alsobrooks raised $1.73 million within her first seven weeks in the race with grassroots donations, and she said that her campaign intends to continue to expand its coalition by “putting heat in the streets.” She added, “This race is going to be decided by the people. This race is not going to be decided by money.”
And the people are responding to these candidates, especially as they learn more about how they’ve been delivering for voters for years. Alsobrooks has 26 years of service on her resume. From serving as the first full-time domestic violence prosecutor in the state’s attorney office to shepherding millions for small business and minority-owned businesses in Prince George’s County, Maryland, she delivers. Rep. Lee made her bones by learning from political greats, like the honorable Shirley Chisholm, and she has never backed down from doing what’s right — including being the sole dissenting vote on going to war in Afghanistan. Rep. Blunt Rochester’s 34-year career in public service has spanned from congressional intern to Delaware secretary of labor and the first Black person and woman ever elected to represent Delaware in Congress. So, if you have any concerns about the quality and competency of these candidates, check their credentials.
These Black women are ready to lead, and their collective campaign ethos screams, “It’s our time.” The 2024 Senate elections present us with a wealth of opportunity, and depending on the outcomes, this moment could yield a resounding series of victories or a clear stain on our political environment. Either way, y’all better make room because these highly qualified, battle-tested Black women are ready to make their mark in history.
Juanita Tolliver is the host of Crooked Media’s “What A Day” Podcast and an MSNBC political analyst.
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